You’ll know it instantly when you are near a patch of wild garlic, the scent fills the air with garlicky wonderfulness – and the ground covering of shimmering leaves is unmistakably magical.
March is the ideal time to be picking wild garlic because, before they flower, the leaves are beautifully fragrant and flavourful without being pungent or stringy. Anyone who’s ever spent hours picking and preparing wild garlic leaves, spending half a month’s income on pine nuts and laboriously grating parmesan, producing 8 bea-yooo-tiful jars of wild garlic pesto only to discover that the garlic was so strong that the resulting concoction was inedible, will be much more satisfied with the fruits of their labours if they do their picking far earlier in the month.
Wild garlic does often grow near the poisonous lords and ladies, which in my humble opinion looks absolutely nothing like the wild garlic. However, having just spent the afternoon foraging with two young boys who continually amazed me with their ability to confuse the two, made me decide to caution you against the potential confusion.
Wild garlic leaves are long and narrow with a smooth edge and a pointed tip. They have a central vein with smaller veins running horizontally to it. They grow in clusters, low to the ground and like a nice shady bank or hillside. The completely unsimilar (as far as I’m concerned) lords and ladies are a darker green, have wobbly edges and the leaves meets the stalk in a heart shape – also the veins radiate out in a branching pattern. Please don’t confuse the two, I’d be very disappointed in you if you did. And you’d be dead, so that would be disappointing too. (kidding. you won’t be dead.)
Our enthusiasm for picking and the seemingly endless list of recipe ideas we were coming up with as we picked (wild garlic ice cream anyone?) meant we came home with many more leaves than we will ever consume so if anyone has any wacky suggestions for what to do with the harvest, I’d love to hear. (But if you saw my dandelions blog where I revealed our lack of cheese, you won’t recommend I make pesto!)
As more and more of us go into isolation I would imagine that our resourcefulness, or willingness to leave things out of recipes, will grow. The idea of going out to the shops for a particular ingredient, shopping for one meal at a time or cooking exactly according to instructions is going to have to be replaced with a sense of comfort with things not being how they ‘should’ be, but good enough anyway. So my wild garlic stir-fry recipe is pretty pared down – but to be fair, my children ate the whole lot and asked for seconds (there were none) which is pretty much proof that the recipe didn’t suffer for its weirdness.
Thinly slice a couple of carrots lengthwise and chuck them in a frying pan with a generous teaspoon of sesame oil, 2 Tbsp of soy sauce and a teaspoon of rice vinegar, then grate about an inch of fresh ginger in and let it all cook for 5-7 minutes.
While that’s cooking, boil your water and cook your noodles in the usual fashion. Once the carrots are softened, roughly chop a couple of good sized handfuls of wild garlic and toss them in with the carrots. That should take a minute or two to wilt. If, like me, your noodles are taking longer than your veg, pop the lid onto the saucepan to trap the moisture which will keep it all a bit saucy. All that’s left then is to mix the veg and noodles together and enjoy (oh, and read the little disclaimer paragraph below).
So, when I said noodles, it turns out we didn’t have noodles, so (as the more eagle-eyed amongst you will have already noticed) we used wholewheat spaghetti. We also don’t have any sesame oil so I used olive. And no, I don’t have rice vinegar either, so I used red wine vinegar (which I’m pretty sure was about 6 years old). Lastly, if you haven’t got fresh ginger just use ground – probably 2 teaspoons will do.
Perhaps we should start a new thread on isolation-related mods to our usual recipes? If you’ve got anything else you’d like us to forage and cook up, let me know! This blog is down to a request from one lovely contributor!
I have been overwhelmed by the financial contributions that friends and strangers have made to my blog. I am so incredibly grateful to you, it’s hard to express that in print but I want everyone to know how touched the boys and I were to wake up this morning to the notifications of donations received. Thank you. If you cannot donate and are facing hard times yourself, please just read and enjoy and take your family out for some free wild food! If you like my recipe ideas, the best favour you can do me is to share my posts with your social media network. Thank you.